A robot painted a portrait on a tablet computer at the booth of Samsung at the IFA, one of the largest electronics fairs in the world, in Berlin on 1 September, 2016.
A robot painted a portrait on a tablet computer at the booth of Samsung at the IFA, one of the largest electronics fairs in the world, in Berlin on 1 September, 2016.

Advancements in robotics could render middle managers and as many as one-fifth of nurses and practical nurses redundant in the near future, indicates a report published yesterday by the Finnish Business and Policy Forum (EVA).

“Artificial intelligence is simply able to plan the use and prioritisation of resources better than human beings,” states Taneli Tikka, the head of Industrial Internet at Tieto.

The proliferation of robotics, he estimates, will have fundamental repercussions particularly for knowledge-based organisations with a heavy middle-management.

“Artificial intelligence and other smart applications are efficient in creating staff rotas, reporting and managing processes and other narrowly-defined activities. Assessing the performance of employees, monitoring absences and working time, giving routine instructions, budgeting for operations, and drafting corporate plans are similarly tasks that can be performed efficiently and reliably by smart technologies,” writes Tikka.

Superior cost-efficiency, however, is not the only reason to replace middle managers with robots.

“The autonomy and self-control of employees will increase as everyone will be able to organise their work tasks more efficiently. [Employees] will spend more time considering and making decisions on what to do and why,” he predicts.

The managerial staff, in turn, will focus increasingly on defining the culture and values of the organisation.

“The changes may in the long term translate to a shift from cascading expert organisations towards organisations consisting only of front-line employees, experts and upper management,” estimates Tikka.

Advancements in robotics will also have a fundamental impact on the work environment and responsibilities of nurses and practical nurses, predict Cristina Andersson, a management consultant, and Mari Kangasniemi, an adjunct professor of nursing science at the University of Eastern Finland.

Automation and robotics could according to them be utilised to carry out at least one-fifth of the responsibilities of nurses and practical nurses in long-term elderly care facilities as soon as two to three years from now.

“The technology that is available today is suitable for transporting patients and equipment, recording the vital signs of patients, and dispensing and distributing medications,” they write. “Robots have, for example, been shown to reduce medication errors and increase patient safety.”

Andersson and Kangasniemi estimate that the introduction of robots to hospitals and other care facilities could, at best, allow nurses and practical nurses to devote a greater share of their working time to key responsibilities. Nurses and practical nurses, they highlight, currently spend fewer than three days of their five-day work-weeks on direct patient care.

The number could be raised to four days by utilising the available technology more efficiently, they believe.

The report also dispels concerns that automation will result in mass unemployment.

“Technological advancements would result in mass unemployment if they destroyed more jobs than they created. Economic history indicates that technological advancements have created more jobs than they have destroyed,” reminds Antti Kauhanen, a chief research scientist at the Research Institute of the Finnish Economy (ETLA).

The Organisation for Economic Development and Co-operation (OECD), he highlights, reported recently that no more than seven per cent of jobs in Finland are at a high risk of automation over the next two decades.

The percentage is low in comparison to most other member states of the OECD – with the exception of Estonia and South Korea – due to the relatively high degree of automation of manufacturing processes and highly-educated workforce in Finland, explains Kauhanen.

“The number is not particularly high in light of the fact that an estimated 12 per cent of jobs in our business sector are destroyed every year,” he adds.

“Robots will lead to the re-distribution of work tasks – to a new distribution of labour between man and machine,” he predicts. “What is of social significance is that automation is expected to enhance the productivity of work, meaning that our new co-workers will ultimately foster prosperity.”

Andersson and Kangasniemi similarly estimate that the demand for nurses and practical nurses is unlikely to decrease because future changes in the age structure of the population are expected to increase the demand for all health care professionals by 10 per cent and that for experts in elderly care services by almost 20 per cent by 2026.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Photo: Tobias Schwarz – AFP / Lehtikuva
Source: Uusi Suomi